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Here’s something I didn’t expect: The Amazing Race: Family Edition waited all season long to pull out it best episode of all. Tuesday night’s season finale was the sort of show we’ve come to expect from The Amazing Race: exciting, intense, emotional, funny. Maybe the amped up stakes involved me more, but I tend to think it’s because the series managed to get back to its roots for two hours as the teams faced a variety of obstacles ranging from inept cabbies to hidden clue boxes to daunting luck challenges to chaotic airport shenanigans. This is the Race we know and love, and as we reached the end of the two hours and saw a glimpse of season nine, my faith was restored that this show will return to its full glory soon enough.The big finale began where we last left off: beautiful Western Montana! Oh the glory of Big Sky Country. Cattle! Prairie dogs! Phil! Could there be a better place in the world at that moment? Anyway, we saw our teams enjoying this little slice of heaven as Nick Linz lassoed his sister like a low-rent cowboy auditioning for an amusement park gig. Later, the teams gathered to eat a hearty lunch, and as usual, the Weavers separated themselves from the pack by sitting alone at an empty table. Too bad, really. You just know Linda was dying to join in once the Bransens and Linzes started making “Last supper” and “Judas” jokes.
Sadly, our rare peak into the world of the Pit Stop was cut short as the actual got underway once again. With the Bransens leading the pack, we learned that teams would now have to fly to Montreal, Canada. Oooh! Airports and foreign countries! Sort of. Does Canada count? I guess so. Anyway, once in Montreal, teams would have to make their way to the Underground City and find a clue in the passageway for the CDP Capital Building. (And yes, I too was surprised none of the Weaver girls asked what country “CDP” was.) As the Bransens drove off to that metropolitan hub known as Billings, Montana, young Lindsay let the power of Quebec sink in: “Canada, huh?” Her bewilderment was short-lived, however, as Wally dropped this bombshell: “It’s French-speaking there.” To which Lindsay balked, “French? Crap!” C’mon, Lindsay. I really like you. Don’t go all Weaver on me.
At the airport, the Bransens made a few calls and wound up on a flight arriving ten minutes earlier than the other two teams, causing Beth to note, “Ten minutes could make a difference.” And with that, the floating ghost head of Stassi Schroeder appeared on screen, crying, “One minute makes the biggest difference!!!” Seriously, she’s still very upset about that. Anyway, all the teams took a flight to their first layover in Minneapolis, and while the Bransens headed off on their super duper “Ooooh! We’re TEN MINUTES earlier!” flight, everyone else attempted to find other flights into Montreal. The Linzes managed to get a leg up on their competition by booking seats on a plane arriving a full hour ahead of the Bransens (ha, suckers! Oh wait, I like them), and when the Weavers tried to pull off similar shenanigans, their inept airline worker failed to produce results (Ha, suckers! For real this time). Of course, I probably would have been happy with whatever the outcome of this mess would be, simply because for the first time in ages, we had a splendid mess of airport intrigue. There’s really no substitute for it.
The Linzes and Weavers then flew to their next layover in Toronto, and in a mad dash to the ticket counter, Rolly managed to trip up Alex, causing both of them to tumble right in front of some homely looking airline worker. Of course, Linda went into full “MY HUSBAND DIED” panic as she yelled, “NOOOO!!! Don’t touch him!!!” She then added, “Are you sorry that you touched him? YOU WILL BE!!!”
Now, even though the rough and tumble action seemed relatively harmless (we could, after all, just barely detect an affable smile on Alex’s face post-tumble), the Linz bruiser still sneered, “He’s lucky I didn’t break his arm.” Are you sorry you didn’t break his arm? YOU WILL BE!! Okay, I’ll stop.
Well, as the Linzes picked up their tickets to that earlier flight into Montreal, the Weavers went into a back office and managed to get themselves on the same plane. Blast! The only thing that could make me feel better was a nifty air travel diagram, and thankfully, the show was kind enough to oblige. Gotta love those animated lines! But my diagram high was short-lived as the first plane touched down and the lovable Linz family struggled to find a cab. The Weavers, on the other hand, managed to flag one down quite easily, and because it had been entirely too long since they’d made fools of themselves, Rolly stepped up to the plate with a nice blend of condescending yet dumb Americanism.
“Are you fast?” he asked the cabbie, then adding, “El fasto?” (Collective groan amongst all viewers). Not only is “El fasto” blatantly not French, it’s actually not Spanish either. But then again, everyone knows that if you add an “El” and an “o” to any word, people around the world always understand it. Move over math, we’ve got a new universal language!
Amusingly though, the driver just gave Rolly a disgusted look and retorted, “I’m not going to lose my life getting you there.” Whaaa? He speaks ENGLISH! Wow, he just totally rocked the Weavers’s world.
Nevertheless, the Weavers drove off, but not before seeing the Linzes waiting around for a taxi. “We saw the G.I. Janes standing there, looking puzzled,” Rolly said. G.I. Janes? What the? That literally makes no sense. I’d really like to hear the derivation of that moniker, but chances are it probably appeared to Linda in a holy vision. I think we can officially declare that the Weavers have the absolute worst derisive nicknames for the other teams.
Meanwhile, up in the air, the Bransens learned that their flight would be delayed about twenty minutes. Worst ten minute time saver EVER!
Back in Montreal, the Weavers arrived at the Metro station they needed to enter to access the Underground City. However, they weren’t about to let their taxi go. Linda told the driver to wait for them, and when he said yes, she still didn’t believe him. “Look at me. Look at me in the eyes!” she demanded, adding, “My frizz will detect your sincerity.” Ultimately, the driver convinced Linda that he was not of Satanic ilk and would in fact wait for the family to return. The Weavers then went running around the Underground City (which is basically just a series of underground passageways from building to building so Canucks can avoid that harsh winter cold, eh? Eventually, Linda and her kids found the clue which revealed the latest Detour: “Slide it” or “Roll it.” That’s what she said! Rimshot! Sorry, I don’t even know what that means. It just sounded good.
Anyway, in “Slide it,” teams had to travel to the McGill Arena and go curling (a.k.a. one of my favorite Winter Olympic sports. Everyone always hates on it, but I think it’s the best. But that’s because I have a weird thing for obscure Olympic sports). Anyway, each person would have to slide a granite stone into the “house” (essentially a target) to move on. In “Roll It,” teams would have to use traditional lumberjack tools to roll logs along a 100 foot course. You know the drill — it’s physically demanding but could be done quickly. (I feel like there’s a Star Jones joke in there somewhere).
Well, the Weavers opted for “Slide it,” which was good because their driver — named Ted — knew exactly where the McGill Arena was. “There’s only one rink,” he insisted. Oh really, TED? We’ll see about that. Nevertheless, the Weavers believed him and cooed, “He’s nice. You’re great.” Seriously, Ted, they only say that about one other man, and his name rhymes with Chesus.
As for the Linzes, they finally found a cab, but just when they seemed to be on the right track, they committed one of my favorite Amazing Race blunders: they walked right by the clue box (insert cymbal crash here). The plucky fam from Ohio ran around and around the Underground City, and just when I was fearing that they may fall entirely too far behind, we had great news on the Weaver front. Turns out Ted took his passengers to the wrong rink. Wait, I thought there was only one rink, TED. Nope, turns out there’s a whole second rink half an hour away. Might this be the break that the Linzes need? Eh, not so much. The good news was that the Linzes found their clue eventually, but then they too got lost and wound up at the wrong rink. But it wasn’t all a loss: “There’s a lot of sexy babies running around here,” Nick commented, causing Tommy to add, “I KNOW dude!!” It’s funny. When I think of Montreal, I only think of one sexy, sexy baby:
Meanwhile, the Weavers finally arrived at the proper rink and invited Ted inside to watch them curl. It would actually have been a pretty nice gesture had they not been patronizingly using his name in every single sentence. Once inside, we had a classic Weaver Edumacation moment as the family learned about one of nature’s wonders: ice! “We don’t even know what ice is except for ice cubes,” one of the girls said. To be fair, they’ve always referred to ice as “Jesus crystal.”
As for the Bransens, they finally arrived à Monréal and headed out to the Underground City where they too completely ran by the clue box. After some general scampering and scouring, they retraced their route and found the pesky little box, and in a surprise move, the family opted to roll logs. Yay! I love when we get variety.
Back at the rink, Rebecca took hold of her granite stone and prepared to slide it down to the target. “I’m nervous!” she said. Why are you nervous? Oh, I understand. You’re just thinking about all the potential frostbite that could come from wearing hot pants into an ice rink. Happens to all of us. Nevertheless, the Weavers eventually powered through the Detour, and Rolly read the next clue. “Montel…” he began before his family corrected him with “Montreal.” Looks like Rolly might needs some El Reading-o Lessons-o.
Well, the clue told the Weavers to head to the American Pavilion, and so they zipped off with Ted, who just happened to say the magic words: “First of all, I want to thank God.”
“Ted, we thank God every day too,” Linda said happily.
“Are you a Christian?” asked one of the daughters, probably Rachel.
“I do, I’m a Christian,” Ted responded.
“So are WE!!” the Weavers all replied. WOW!!! What are the chances!! Another Christian!! In Quebec of all places too!!! It’s a Christmas Miracle!
Meanwhile, the Linzes arrived at the rink, and while they made short work of the curling, the Bransens slaved with the logs, but that’s because they were doing it all wrong. Look at the lumberjacks, WalDER! You’re driving me nuts with your poor technique! Eh, let’s just talk about the Weavers again.
By now, they had encountered the American Pavilion which was essentially a giant wire-framed sphere built for the 1967 World’s Fair. “That’s pretty crazy they built something that cool back then,” remarked one of the daughters. She’s right. It’s a common fact that cool architecture didn’t arrive until say 1985 or so. I mean, we all know that the Taj Mahal was built in 1992. Sheesh.
Anyway, the Weavers then searched all around the American Pavilion for their next clue which then directed them to an industrial complex where they’d have to find La Porte J, or as we in America would call it: Door J. And so the team hopped back in their cab and continued their love-fest with Ted. “God led us to you. He dropped us off right where we needed to be,” Linda said. Later, she even added, “You’re like a blessing from heaven… I said, ‘God, we need the right taxi driver. Please send him to us.’ And he did!” Hey Linda, do you ever think that maybe, just maybe, you’re using up all your prayer credit on stupid things? I mean seriously. God’s a busy man (or woman or, er, celestial body).
Over at the ice rink, the Linzes finished up their curling in typically happy spirits, and as they left, we were treated to an oh-so-artistic shot of them departing through a mirror. Well done, camera man. Well done! With dreams of opening up a curling rink in Cincinnati, the Linzes then headed to the American Pavilion where they seemed to momentarily transform into the Weavers’ goofy cousins. First, Alex told the taxi driver to “Andele!” Then, as they searched for the American Pavilion, Megan suggested, “I say we ask old people… They were around during the time.” I don’t know what sort of spell Linda cast on these kids, but I hope it wears off real soon…
I guess we should check in on the Bransens. They were still rolling logs, with the daughters squeaking “Eeeee!” at every possible chance they had. Nothing new there.
The Weavers meanwhile finally showed up at La Porte J and encountered the next Roadblock which involved one person learning and performing “The Catch” on a trapeze. Unsurprisingly, the Weavers through Rolly to the fire, or El Fire-o, as he calls it, and as he learned the trapeze technique, Linda became a nervous wreck, imploring, “Pray for him, Rachel. Pray!” Luckily, her spirits remained high as she then told us, “This has been the best day. Gosh, it’s been fun!” Yeah, we’ll see if you’re still saying that a few paragraphs from now.
Anyway, Rolly completed his trapeze jump, causing Linda to gush, “OH MY GOD!!! WOW!!!” She then yelled at the trapeze acrobat, “Are you sorry that you caught Rolly? YOU WILL BE!!!! Oh, wait. No, never mind.”
Well, next stop on the leg was the Parc Olympique where teams would have to hop onto a golf cart and drive into the Stade Olympique. Ah, but there was only one access route into the stadium, and it would not be easy to find. The Weavers drove off to this next challenge, and soon after, the Linzes arrived at the Roadblock. “I’ll do it,” Megan said meekly, but her brothers didn’t hear her, and Alex wound up accepting the challenge. C’mon Megan. You gotta shout that shit out!
Anyway, as Alex climbed up to the trapeze, his siblings all feared that he might be too, uh, rotund for the challenge. “Alex is a fat lard,” Nick said. “Let’s go fatty,” added Tommy. “Think light, think feather,” Megan then said. Now that’s what I call familial support! Well, Alex failed his first attempt to do “The Catch,” which severely impeded his attempts to impress the female acrobats, or as Tommy so nicely called them, “those two broads.”
Luckily, while Alex flailed in his circus of shame, the Weaver faced an ungodly setback: they couldn’t get into the damn stadium! But Linda had a foolproof plan: “We should always take the left. Because the right’s the most common. The left is always the way we should take.” Uh, Linda, I don’t think the stadium was designed with trickery in mind. Also, I know this is crazy, but if you approach something from the opposite direction, left becomes RIGHT! Crazy, huh?
Back at the Cirque Du So-Lame (I slay me), a sweaty Alex flopped again. To lighten the mood, he noted that one of the trapeze guys was just “hanging out.” Hey, let us make the corny jokes. You just focus on getting through this and beating the Weavers. In the meantime, the Bransens actually caught up, which meant the Linzes had somehow lost about an hour on the Weavers. Not to fear though. Alex finally completed the task, and then it was off to the stadium. Meanwhile, the Weavers still struggled to find an entrance, going so far as to try ramming an elevator door open with their cart. Eventually, they found the proper access ramp (blast!) and entered the stadium where they found their next clue.
Teams now had to find one of three departure times hidden somewhere in the entire 56,000 seat arena! And yes, my eyes rolled back into my head with ecstasy. Back on Amazing Race 4, teams had a similar task in the final episode where they had to find a clue hidden in a section of a stadium, but that was nothing compared to this behemoth task. Well, the Weavers got to work while outside the Bransens and Weaver searched the area for an entrance. “Is this the Stand Olympic?” Megan asked pedestrians over and over again. It was all very Weaverish, with the difference being that when she made a mistake, at least her brothers corrected her. As for the Bransens, Wally only had one request: “I wish we had our old golf carts from the golf course.” He LOVES Buick!
Well, the stadium challenge turned out to be the great equalizer, and as the Linzes came running in, Linda let out a signature, “I hate this.” Hey, I thought this was the best day ever? Nevertheless, Linda could rest comfortably knowing at least one thing: “We beat ‘em here, and they know it.” Uh, does that even matter? And isn’t that a not very Christian mentality? Love thy neighbors, BITCH.
It became clear that this task was gonna take a few hours, so the teams all went outside to pay their cabbies, which resulted in a minor bottleneck on the sidewalk. Basically, the Weavers and Linzes needed to get by each other’s golf carts, and when the Team Ohio asked Team Florida “Are you guys gonna scoot over?”, Rachel or Rebecca (I couldn’t tell) simply retorted, “Uh, we are!” People with good ears though could hear Rolly sneer, “Not for you guys.” And so as the two carts managed to sneak by each other, Tommy said something silly about “Rolly Polly,” causing Linda to complain that the Linzes were calling her son names — as opposed to her calling the Linzes “G.I. Janes” or the more common, “They’re just idiots.”
With all the cabs paid off, the teams had nothing else to do but search. And search. And search some more. Eventually, the tediousness of the challenge took its toll on the families as Becca Weaver moaned, “I can’t wait to go home and get my hair done.” Yeah, she really needs to get a few more white trash streaks. As for WalDER, he too was quite cranky. “This is gonna take all frickin’ night,” he complained. “I’m gonna kick somebody’s ass.” Beware the wrath of WALLY!!!
Eventually, the Bransens and Linzes snuck up to the second tier, and while Rolly wanted his family to join them, the rest of the Weavers simply threw in the towel, making up excuses why going up to the next level would really just be an exercise in futility. Yes, such futility that the Linzes found a departure time of 5:50 AM and the Bransens found one of 5:45 AM. Later, Linda full on went to sleep in a cot, and Rachel scoffed “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Yes, bash the challenge for your own shortcomings. We understand. “By not doing this, it’s not like I’ve not accomplished anything. It’s not like I’m less of a better person or anything. I just think that it’s just stupid!” Rebecca then said. Maybe if you hadn’t wasted your prayer on the taxi, you’d be having better luck now. Ever think of that? OF COURSE NOT.
Well, the show went to commercial as we stared at Linda’s sleeping face and heard the kids say that they were never gonna comeback. But as any Amazing Race viewer knows, these sort of dire situations resolve themselves about two seconds after the commercial break, and sure enough, that’s what happened. Linda arose, and the family gave it one last college try. And sure enough, they found their departure time: 5:55 AM. Last one, suckers.
The next morning, the families arrive at the airport, and as they took off in their little private planes, Phil announced, “All teams are now making their way to a mystery destination.” Oooh! Exciting! And that destination: Toronto! Mysterious indeed! Once teams touched down, they had to race to the top of the CN tower and scan the city to find the location of their next clue — also one of my favorite sort of challenges. On the way to the tower, the Weavers stopped at a gas station to get directions. Linda asked if she could keep the gas attendant’s map, and at first the man was resistant, but then, with the stereotypical flourish of a sitar, he handed it over. Oh, those kindly Indians!
The Linzes and Bransens arrived at the observation deck first where Walter got his nasty sweat all over his binoculars. Gross! The Weavers, meanwhile, had fun in the elevator as Rolly asked the attendant (in typical Weaver patronizing style) how he enjoyed his job. “It has its ups and downs,” the guy said. Oh that is HILARious! Well played!
Well, the teams eventually found the big Amazing Race flag, and the Linzes were the first team to actually arrive at the location where they found another Detour. Suddenly, we found our old friend Phil sauntering through a shoe museum. Mayhaps he’d be donating one of his best set of clogs? Probably not. Instead, he introduced the latest set of Detour options: Ship or Shoe. In Ship, teams had to sail across Toronto Harbor to a vessel called the Kajaba (and no, Phil did not pronounce it like “Kajabar”). There, one team member would have to climb a mast and retrieve a flag. In Shoe, teams had to go to the Bata Shoe Museum and seek out the one woman out of 100 that could fit into a certain pair of shoes.
Anyway, the Linzes and Weavers opted for Ship while the Bransens headed to the shoe museum. As usual, Linda was ready to ask for a quick solid from God. “Oh Lord, please help up with the ship,” she said. Seconds later, Rolly tried to hop a fence but soundly failed. I guess that was the Lord’s way of saying, “You’re on your own, jerks.”
Unsurprisingly, the Linzes made quick work of this challenge, with Tommy proclaiming, “I’m like Popeye!” Well, if Popeye had ADHD, then yes. For their next destination, teams then had to drive to Queenston — a town on the Niagra gorge — choose a jet boat, ride into the Niagra whirlpool, and grab a clue from a buoy. Sounds like a plan! As the Linzes drove off, we then checked in on the Bransens who were having a doozy of a time finding a match for their shoes. Was this Detour a mistake? Will they ever find the right woman? COMMERCIAL BREAK! A few minutes later when we returned, the Bransens magically found a match, and then it was off to Queenston. “Isn’t Niagra Falls a huge waterfall?” asked Lindsay Bransen. Groan.
Meanwhile, the Weavers sent Rolly — of course — up the mast to retrieve their flag, but uh oh! He dropped the damned thing! Hey, Rolly. Are you sorry you dropped the flag? YOU WILL BE!!! Actually, it turned out to be okay. The flag landed on the dock, and Linda was able to retrieve it, and before we knew it, everyone was racin’ to Queenston! Yeeehaww!!
With the Bransens and Linzes neck and neck, I gotta admit, my heart started pounding just a tad. The two families found their jet boats, and dammit if those things didn’t look like the most fun ever. Basically, they were these giant motor boats. Kind of like Maid of the Mist gone X-TREME!!! I was curious about one thing though. Who was that random family sitting in the back of the Bransen’s boat? Did anyone else see them? And I think there may have been a family on the Linz’s boat too. How awkward. It’s like when you’re sitting at a cramped restaurant and strangers come and share a table with you.
After retrieving their clues from the buoy, the teams then learned they’d be heading to Lewiston, NY — their final destination city!! Okay, heart beating a little harder now. Say what you will about this season, but you can never deny the final episode excitement. Anyway, the Linzes and Bransens headed on their boats to Lewiston, which was on the other side of the river (don’t worry, the Weavers were firmly in third place). Hey, did these teams have to pay customs to cross the river like that? Somebody better look into that!
Once the families hopped off their boats, they encountered the last Roadblock. One person had to assemble a geography jigsaw puzzle, which was basically a map of Central and North America. After all the states and countries were in the correct place, teams could then make their way to the finish line. The finish line!!! Okay, this was crazy exciting. Nick Linz and Walter Bransen attacked their puzzles with a geographic fervor not seen since Rand McNally found out the USSR had split into like 12 different countries. This may have been the most exciting jigsaw puzzle of all time. It seemed like Nick was going faster, but his mistaken belief that Oklahoma lied north of Colorado had me believing this could be a tight one.
The producers then taunted us for a few minutes as we cut back and forth and back and forth between the two puzzles, with the rest of the teammates saying things like “I can smell the million dollars” and “A million dollars is at stake.” Ultimately, Nick managed to finish first, thanks to a pesky Rhode Island piece that Wally had forgotten. With the Linzes already running towards Phil and his outstretched arms, it was clear that the Bransens wouldn’t be able to catch up. But then again, you never know. It was a foot race to the end, and lo and behold, the Linzes arrived first. Linzes win!!! YES!!! Granted, I would have been happy if the Bransens had won too, but seriously, who doesn’t love the Linzes?
Someone get me a tissue.
Well, Tommy collapsed on the mat, but he then picked himself up — you can’t keep Bone down for long! — and Phil delivered his usual speech “25 days, 50 cities, and more than 600 consecutive hours as a family! Linz family, you are the winners of The Amazing Race!” And just like that, the show did what it has always been known to do: go from exciting to emotional on the turn of a dime. As the siblings hugged and kissed each other and wept tears of joy, I had to admit, I got a little verklemped. C’mon! It’s family! They love each other! But the real clincher was seeing the Paolos clapping in the crowd. Who else wouldn’t get a little misty-eyed to see Marion rocking her neck kerchief once again?
The Bransens then showed up moments later, also to thunderous applause, and then it was time for speeches. “This is all for mom and dad,” Alex Linz said triumphantly. And speaking of parents, Phil then turned to Walter and asked, “Wally, you must be very proud of them as a father.”
“They’re just, uh, they’re great ladies…” he started before succumbing to tears. And with that, his daughters embraced him and cried too. Damn you, Family Edition! Why must you be so dull for so long and then slam us with this emotional whopper of an ending? Nevertheless, with tears in her eyes, Beth Bransen said, “We love him to death, and we wouldn’t have made it through this without him.” And yes, there was more crying.
Then Walter said that the Linzes were a real testament to their parents. “As a parent, I was just very proud of them,” he then added. Wow, that was so incredibly nice. I’m loving this lovefest.
Eventually, the Weavers wound up in third place, and I don’t know if maybe it was the hot pants or something else, but Phil had quite the boner going on as he greeted the Florida team. He asked the kids what they thought of their mom, and Rebecca said through tears, “She’s done an amazing job, especially everything that’s happened with us this past year and a half like losing my dad, and she’s just helped us so much.” It was a sweet moment, even if it was coming from the Weavers. Granted, mom’s a bit nuts, but these poor kids — she’s all they have. Okay, FINE. I’m being sentimental. Sometimes you gotta go a little Chrissy Godlewski. I just want my BACKPACK!
Isn’t it odd, by the way, that Linda never seemed to kiss her children? Even Marion Paolo kissed DJ. Maybe that’s why Rolly looked so pissed at the finish line. He just wants to be kissed! Nevertheless, Linda did have nice things to say about her children, especially Rachel. “She’s kept her eyes on the Lord,” mom said. Yeah, and also thrown garbage at other teams and called people retards. But mostly, her eyes were on the Lord.
Well, the speeches wrapped up, and the eliminated teams rushed the stage to hug everyone. And aww, if it wasn’t only the cutest image ever: Carissa Gaghan giving Alex Linz a huge hug. You know, if I were her age, the Linzes would literally be my heros. But I’m older, so my heros are Julie Chen and assorted football players who help me in my fantasy league.
And as the show ended, we finally figured out what was up with that whole “Who dey?” line the Linzes always say.
“Who dey? Who dey? Who dey think they’ll beat them Linzes?” the family chanted, with Tommy adding, “Nobody because we won one million dollars.”
And how. What did you think about this season finale? Did you like it as much as me? I already saw some other articles at EW.com and Reality Blurred that were kind of hating on it. Tell me I’m not the only one!